Belphegor, having a noteworthy presence in the European blackened death metal scene for over 20 years, recently released their 11th album named “Totenritual”, via Nuclear Blast.

“Totenritual” sounds like its title implies: an unholy, grandiose invocation to demonic, out-of-this-world entities. Therefore, Belphegor adopt a dark, heavy atmosphere that required slower parts, encompassing in certain songs elements of oriental origin that give a more mystical –or apocryphal- feeling to the new release. Up-tempo outbursts are also evident, referring to the black metal storm of early releases, like “Blutsabbath”, however without adopting their razor-like sound and coldness.

Helmuth uses traditional death growls that contribute effectively to the overall heavy, foul atmosphere, while blackish shrieks are limited, having a supporting role. However, what really stands out is the excellent work on guitars, reflecting the band’s high inspiration level: the riffing is sick, violent and melodic where necessary, constituting most songs addictive and easily remembered. Also, I would be unfair if I don’t mention the new drummer’s performance behind the kit: Simon Schilling is absolutely precise both in slow and up-tempo parts, making the compositions sounding more solid and integrated.

The raw nature of Belphegorian perception is effectively combined with rather ritualistic, melodic parts in “Apophis – Black Dragon”, creating a strange mixture emanating from forgotten, Eastern territories. This aspect of “Totenritual” is essentially evident in ‘Embracing a Star” as well, where chanting vocals are followed by crushing rhythmic riffs like thunderbolts and slower, atmospheric parts.

As mentioned before, the high-speed, raging aspect of Belphegor is not absent, like in “The Devil’s Son”, “Apophis – Black Dragon” and the closing track “Totenritual”, where Simon demonstrates how proper blast-beating should be. Also, in |Spell of Reflection| we come across a more melodic approach with addictive riffing reminding of Amon Amarth, while bass becomes more prominent.

In a few words, “Totenritual” means violent riffs, blast beats, atmospheric parts and –above all- addictive refrains, all of them clearly highlighted by the excellent production, which retains the foul, aggressive nature of the band, while giving an extra element of apocryphal aura. Many fans of extreme metal should be satisfied, as Belphegor succeed in releasing an album that we can hear with great interest from the first to the last song.

♦ 8/10

Alex Nikolaidis